Derek Medina is no deviously clever Zodiac Killer, but he may be the modern version.
In a story that made headlines around the world, the Miami man shot his wife and posted a photo of her bloody corpse on Facebook, along with his confession. But it was more than a simple confession. It was a stab at fame. Focus on one line of his statement: “You will see me in the news.”
And so it was. Without the Facebook post, this would have been another murder in what has become, sadly, a daily routine in South Florida. It would have gotten two minutes on the local news, tops, and not a blip nationally. Instead, Medina turned his crime into instant fame.
Many mystery novels have characters like the Zodiac killer that taunts cops and the media with well-placed clues, but in this age viral violence is the trend. One of the first major cases took place in the Ukraine: the Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs. Two teenagers started bludgeoning people to death on camera in 2007, and at least one video was posted online. The teens reportedly thought they could get rich from the videos and viewed them like entertainment. They were convicted of 21 counts of murder.
The teenage fascination with violence and the urge to share their exploits applies to the well heeled as well. Peter Rosello, whose mother is on the Real Housewives of Miami was arrested last year for punching a sleeping homeless man blow the belt and uploading it with the title “Hobo Gets Nutchecked!!!” That was about dehumanizing a victim, treating a homeless man as no more important than a wooden board. Perhaps there was some jealously as well, as his mother gained notoriety on reality TV so the son wanted to earn his fame through his own brand of reality.
Don’t think that the depraved haven’t noticed with envy how famous serial killers become, especially in this 24-hour news cycle where the media digests every viral trace of accused murders like the Boston Marathon bombers or the Virginia Tech shooter, who mailed his confession to a news station in 2007 and posted photos of himself posing with the weapons that would take so many lives.
For Medina, the motive for the murder appears to be an emotional dispute with his wife, not viral fame, but he was quick to seize the opportunity to make a name for himself. His previous attempts didn’t get anywhere. Medina created 143 YouTube videos, from boat trips, to haunted houses to basketball games. He also authored self-published books with over-long titles. Medina, who had trouble holding down a job, wanted to be somebody.
“You will see me in the news.” Indeed.
The other aspect of Media’s post is enshrining the humiliation of the victim. Think about her family. It’s bad enough that they lose their loved one, but now their haunted by the photo of her body displayed online before the world like a bagged deer. Of course, Facebook did the responsible thing and removed it, but it was too late. The victim became famous as well.
This reminds me of a Leonard Pitts column in the Miami Herald in 2010. In describing a webcam bullying of a gay Rutgers student who leapt into the Hudson River after the clip went viral, Pitts wrote:
“There is always some video going around whose calculated effect is nothing more or less than humiliation on a global scale. Technology, it seems, has unleashed an ugliness in us.”
Brian Bandell is the author of Mute, a murder mystery with a science fiction twist from Silver Leaf Books. He’s also a senior reporter at the South Florida Business Journal and has won more than 24 journalism awards. Follow him on Twitter @brianbandell or find him on Facebook.